New tensions with Beijing? Germany plans to ban parts made by Chinese manufacturers Huawei and ZTE in its 5G networks from January 1, 2026, citing in particular security issues, according to government sources. This ban would also apply to components already installed.
This project carried by the German Ministry of the Interior must, however, be the subject of an agreement within the government coalition of Olaf Scholz. However, not all the ministers agreed, specifies the press from across the Rhine.
In the proposal consulted by AFP, the Ministry of the Interior cites in particular the need to “reduce the risks” vis-à-vis China, as recommended by the recent strategy adopted by Germany with regard to Asian giant. Critical infrastructures, which include telephone networks, are particularly affected by this policy of strengthening security and reducing unilateral dependencies. THE 5G mobile network is “the central nervous system of Germany as an economic power,” notes the project.
Context of growing concerns
The government’s current audit of telecommunications systems “is not completed and discussions with other ministries involved in the decision continue,” a spokesperson for the Interior Ministry said on Wednesday. Over the past year, Germany has hardened its position towards China and seeks to maintain a delicate balance between pursuing economic cooperation with its largest trading partner and protecting its strategic and security interests.
This new strategy comes against a backdrop of growing concerns in Europe and the United States regarding Beijing’s ambitions. By revealing the fragilities of supply chains, the Covid crisis has reinforced Europeans’ desires for sovereignty in the industrial domain while the war in Ukraine has shown the risk of dependence on Russia for the supply of gas. Chinese threats aimed at Taiwanaccusations of persecution against the Uyghurs, and Xi Jinping’s lack of condemnation of the invasion of Ukraine have also fueled distrust.
This shift materialized in the publication by Germany, in mid-July, of a strategic document aimed at setting the course for relations with China. “Our goal is not to decouple ourselves (from Beijing). But we want to reduce critical dependencies,” recalled Chancellor Olaf Scholz, using the formula of the European Commission which sees in Beijing at the same time “a partner, a competitor and a systemic rival”.
European countries divided
Washington, which displays an even firmer position, has already banned the sale of equipment from five Chinese suppliers, including Huawei and ZTE. The United States, citing risks of espionage or sabotage of Western networks, which the companies concerned deny, is putting pressure on European countries to follow suit. Germany, during the era of former Chancellor Angela Merkel, was reluctant to take a position on this issue, refusing the idea of a boycott deemed harmful to the business of Europe’s largest economy.
In June, the European Commission called on the 27 member countries and telecoms operators to exclude Huawei and ZTE from their mobile networks. The European executive itself announced that it would no longer subscribe to mobile telephone services using equipment from these companies, considering that this represented a risk for the security of the EU.
Bans on the supply of 5G equipment have also already been taken in United Kingdom, in Canada, in Sweden but European countries are divided on the approach to adopt. Reserved about a possible ban, the German Digital Ministry stressed this Wednesday “that there already exist very high standards and strict regulations regarding the use of critical components in the development of 5G” in Germany.